The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

CIFF: Tuesday, After Christmas

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 5, 2010 7:20PM

2010_10_5tuesdayafterchristmas.jpg This is part of Chicagoist's coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival.

Most films on the subject of divorce eagerly present simple, straightforward reasons for the dissolution of a marriage. He works too much. She’s frigid. He can’t keep his hands off the ladies (or she can’t stay away from other guys.) The stress of childlessness is too much. And so on. But Radu Muntean, director and co-writer of Tuesday, After Christmas, knows that offering such reasons is too easy--in effect they're simply lies we tell ourselves as talismans against the uncertainties of sustaining relationships. “If only Couple A hadn’t done X, Y, or Z,” the thinking goes, “they’d still be together.” But real life isn’t like that.

Paul and Adriana, the married couple at the center of this film, have been married long enough to create and maintain a stable, upper middle class existence. They both have successful careers, a circle of friends, and a beautiful daughter together. From the way we see them kid each other while shopping for a snowboard for their little girl’s Christmas present, or a wonderful moment when Paul gives his wife a foot massage while they discuss various domestic matters, it’s clear there’s genuine affection between them--they care for each other, and they’re comfortable together.

But Paul has fallen in love with another woman, a dentist named Raluca, and it’s equally certain that she loves him. Things finally come to a boil around the holidays, when Paul realizes that a reckoning cannot be put off any longer. Using the long takes and naturalistic sound characteristic of so many of the Romanian New Wave films, Muntean meticulously details every character’s existence--even someone like Raluca’s mother, who only appears in a single scene, is as well-drawn as the three leads. And he doesn’t cut away from the action when things get awkward and painful. The result is a portrait of disintegration so centered in a recognizable reality that it’s bound to be difficult viewing for married couples, who will probably relate all too easily to the many ways Paul and Adriana have grown apart even while growing familiar.

Yet Muntean also peppers the movie with wry bits of humor (a doleful cake-eating scene is a standout) and some amusing in-jokes; Dragos Bucur seems to be playing the same character (Cristi) as he did in Police, Adjective and even spots a DVD of 12:08 East of Bucharest lying around Raluca’s apartment.

We certainly don’t recommend seeing this on a date, but Tuesday, After Christmas confirms that some of the most searing films being made about the human condition today are coming straight out of Bucharest.

Tuesday, After Christmas
screens on October 8, 9, and 12.